What Follows the Four?

03 Nov

Dar Ibn Hazm have recently published an excellent edition of Ibn Hazm’s al-Muhalla in 19 volumes. Whilst it’s still early days, it looks like a contender for being the critical edition. Scholars and students alike are currently reviewing it and a proper assessment might take a year or so.

Anyhow, it reminds me of a famous quote by Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, recorded by al-Dhahabi in his Siyar:

‘I have not seen, in all the books of knowledge in Islam, anything comparable to Ibn Hazm’s (1) al-Muhalla nor Shaykh Muwaffaq al-Din (Ibn Qudamah)’s (2) al-Mughni.’

al-Dhahabi added:

‘Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din spoke the truth! And the third is al-Bayhaqi’s (3) al-Sunan al-Kabir, and the fourth is Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s (4) al-Tamhid. Whoever acquires these (four) volumes, whilst being an intelligent mufti, and persists in reviewing them, then he truly is a scholar.’ (Siyar 18:193)

What they all have in common is an encyclopedic approach to hadith and fiqh, truly striving to arrive at the essence of the Sunnah. Now then, a number of later scholars, after quoting the above, have attempted to extend the list to include other candidates for absolutely essential masterpieces that a scholar cannot do without.

The most obvious candidate for the fifth also happens to be the most commonly cited, namely Fath al-Bari by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani.

Muhammad al-Shawkani, who was considered to be a mujtahid (independent jurist) was asked why he hadn’t written a commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, as other scholars (some of arguably lesser standing) had done, and replied by paraphrasing the hadith: ‘la hijra ba’d al-fath.’ i.e. ‘(There is) no (reward for) migration (to Madinah) after the conquest (of Makkah).’ By this he meant that after Fath al-Bari, no other commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari was necessary, as Ibn Hajar had accomplished all that could be accomplished.

Another book mentioned, though overlooked by al-Dhahabi (perhaps because it is incomplete), is al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhab by al-Nawawi. Ibn Kathir said of it in his entry on al-Nawawi in al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah that he does not know of any book of fiqh better than it.

Also frequently mentioned are al-Awsat and its abridgement al-Ishraf by Ibn al-Mundhir, both of which were abridged from the lost al-Mabsut. Although both have been published in recent decades, both publications are incomplete (with a substantial amount of volumes from the manuscripts left unedited and unpublished). The sections that have been published, however, leave nobody in doubt about the value of the books and the indisputable mastery of ijtihad that Ibn al-Mundhir had. Ibn Hazm considerd him to be one of the few mujtahid mutlaqs to come after the time of Ahmad b. Hanbal and Ishaq b. Rahuwayh.



Posted by on November 3, 2016 in Uncategorized


13 responses to “What Follows the Four?

  1. Nasir Abdussalam

    November 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Assalamu alaykum

    I really appreciate this site, It’s very informative, masha’ Allah. The Dar Ibn Hazm edition of al-Muhalla is now on my buy list.

    You mentioned in an earlier post on Shafi’i fiqh that the best of edition of Mughni al-Muhtaj is the Dar al-Hadith edition. I was wondering if you’ve come across the edition published by Dar al-Fayha’ of Damascus and what’s your opinion of it. They specialize in Shafi’i fiqh books and I have a number of their publications. Their edition of Minhaj at-Talibin is on par with Dar al-Minhaj’s. The same goes for their edition of Kifayat al-Akhyar. Their edition of Mughni al-Muhtaj however, has the same errors as the edition of Dar al-Ma’rifah. I never considered Dar al-Hadith until reading your post.

  2. Nasir Abdussalam

    November 8, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Assalamu alaikum

    This is an excellent site, masha’ Allah. I’ll definitely be picking up al-Muhalla.

    You mentioned in a previous post on Shafi’i fiqh that the best edition of Mughni al-Muhtaj is the one published by Dar al-Hadith. I was wondering what is your opinion of the edition of Dar al-Fayha’?

    • Al-Asiri

      November 9, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Wa ‘alaykum salam,

      We are thankful that you are finding benefit, alhamdu lillah. The Dar al-Fayha’ edition of Mughni al-Muhtaj is good. The quality of the binding and paper is actually better than Dar al-Hadith. However, Dar al-Hadith do a better job with regard the textual precision and really helpful and informative footnotes. If you cannot find Dar al-Hadith, then Dar al-Fayha’ is perhaps the next best option in sha Allah.

  3. itqan

    November 10, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    The difference between the muhallah and the rest is the shere amount of refutations and criticism it has recieved from scholars.

    • Al-Asiri

      November 13, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      Most of the criticism is due to his strong language in refuting the views with which he disagrees as well as the legal thinking. That does not detract from the value of the work.

      • itqan

        November 14, 2016 at 6:30 am

        My dear brother Asiri we agree on the need to take good from everywhere and there is good in al muhalla but the deen is an amanah. Errors should be pointed out when promoting a certain work or person which is known for mistakes which effect ones deen.

        If the muhallah is a book of islamic law then flaws in legal thinking certainly does detract from the value of the work.

        His language was the least of the concerns of the Ulama who refuted him. Apart from legal thinking he made grave errors in Aqidah as mentioned by abu bakr ibn al arabi in his awasim and subki in his tabaqat and ibn taymiyyah in some of his books.

        He made countless blunders in ilm al hadith. These were not mere mistakes which no human is free of but repercussions of certain principles he chose for himself which he then applied throughout. See 1) the tarjumah of ikramah bin khalid in the mizan of al dhahabi 2)al ta’nis fi sharh mandhumah al dhahabi fi al tadlis (towards middle-end) 3) muqaddimat al kawthari 152 4) al raf’ wa al takmil of kucknawi with the taliqat of sh abdul fattah abu ghuddah and many others

        He was an unstable person who wasn’t sure where he belonged for a long time. He grew up as a shafi and then shifted to dawudi fiqh and finally built a madhhab for himself. He was bold in attempting to speak in fields which were not his speciality which resulted in him making statementa in some funun which made little sense to the masters of those funun just as ibn taymiyyah and dhahabi (in his tadkhirat al huffaz) have noted.

        Ulama like subki, who completed the majmu of imam nawawi, and ibn al arabi and others have warned against the books of ibn hazam.
        While the good isn’t denied the bad shouldn’t be hidden

      • Al-Asiri

        November 14, 2016 at 7:50 am

        Thanks for taking time to respond so thoughtfully. As you know, the controversy surrounded Ibn Hazm is well-known and the list of luminaries who criticised him is not insignificant. Al-Nawawi actually listed examples of his erroneous legal thinking, which led to some bizarre conclusions.

        Nevertheless, al-Muhalla is a book of great value if utilised for the value that it gives. The main benefit is not in his aqidah nor in his Hadith methodology. Rather, his referencing of sources that are now lost or difficult to locate, as well as his reporting of consensus among the Sahabah, are what specialists utilise the work for.

        The same al-Dhahabi who criticised aspects of his methodology and thought still regarded al-Muhalla highly. It is undisputedly a flawed classic.

        There are many great figures in our heritage who have been controversial and somewhat iconoclastic: Abu Hanifah, al-Bukhari, Ibn Hazm, al-Ghazali, Ibn Taymiyyah, etc. My view is that such figures’ ideas should be engaged. The spectrum of our heritage is vast and it’s a disservice to one’s own Islamic studies to abandon and boycott. Read people on their terms and try to see their angle. Try to attain a certain degree of independence in your religion because it is potentially dangerous to blindly trust others. Escape from the echo chambers and see for yourself. I have personally found many cases of misrepresentation of prominent scholars’ ideas by other sides. Many cases!

        Thus, I am loathe to criticise based on quotes and would rather people came to their own conclusions without external influence, especially mine! I’m pleased that you mentioned some of the criticism here, so that the cathartic pressure is lifted.

  4. Abu Abdir Rahman

    November 12, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.
    Regarding Imam Nawawi’s al-majmu’. You note maktabah al-irshad in your list. Have you seen the darul kutub ilmiiyah edition (several volumes larger, 27 I think and quite expensive … although I appreciate that does not automatically qualify as high quality and accuracy) or the dar aalam al-kutub version (23 vols). The irshad version is not easily available – your comments on the other two would be quite helpful.

    • Al-Asiri

      November 13, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

      I have three editions, and have seen several. The three that I have are the Irshad, ‘Alam al-Kutub, and Dar al-Hadith. The Irshad is difficult to find. The last place that I saw it in was in Kunuz al-Ma’rifah in Jeddah. It is available online, however. What marks it out is the care given in editing and the excellent indices. The paper, print, and binding quality isn’t the best though.

      The ‘Alam al-Kutub edition is quite nice. However, it lacks decent footnotes where necessary and really suffers from not having any indices. Al-Majmu’ and other similar works really need indices.

      The Dar al-Hadith edition is quite good too, especially with regard to footnotes and takhrij. Again, it’s index is nothing compared to the Irshad edition.

      I haven’t looked extensively into the DKI edition. My impressions from it were ambivalent. I have a strong reluctance to endorse DKI editions unless I have reviewed them deeply as well as being informed by those that I respect that the edition is good. In my earlier days as a young student I bought a number of DKI editions in hadith and fiqh and had to get rid of them after discovering that they were literally full of mistakes, typos, spelling mistakes, words missing, words added, etc. As a general rule, only get DKI if they have published the only edition or theirs is the only edition you can find.

      • itqan

        November 14, 2016 at 9:34 am

        “Nevertheless, al-Muhalla is a book of great value if utilised for the value that it gives. The main benefit is not in his aqidah nor in his Hadith methodology. Rather, his referencing of sources that are now lost or difficult to locate, as well as his reporting of consensus among the Sahabah, are what specialists utilise the work for”

        Spot on. This is all that was intended. To know the value of the book and what to watch out for.

      • itqan

        November 14, 2016 at 9:40 am

        Kawthari wrote in his al ishfaq:

        “It is a great shame that works of the likes of ibn hazam are printed without their refutations .. which make difficult for even the specialists of our time to discern between truth and falsehood”

        Our heritage is indeed vast but it is the duty of the ahlul ilm to guide those below them correctly.

        و دمتم بكل خير

  5. haruni

    February 2, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Salam aleykum ustadh. Shaykh Muhammad Akram Nadwi hafizahullah said in is lesson on al-Muhalla that Nayl al-Awtar of imam Shawkani rahimahullah should be added to this list.

    • Al-Asiri

      February 28, 2017 at 5:32 am

      Wa ‘alaykum al-salam,

      Ma sha Allah that’s a good choice. Thanks for the contribution. Shaykh Akram is a man we admire greatly for his work in the field of hadith and teaching advanced studies to the British in and around London, Cambridge, and Oxford.


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